If Oak Park has a street of dreams, chances are it is Forest Avenue. From Erie Street to Chicago Avenue, the street is lined with architecturally significant homes, with a handful of Frank Lloyd Wright designs scattered along the few blocks south of the iconic architect’s Home and Studio.
Just two doors south of Frank’s place, the A.J. Redmond House is a showpiece home designed in 1900 by Wright contemporary, E. E. Roberts. Featured on Wright Plus and the Infant Welfare Society Housewalk, among others, the home recently hit the market, asking $1,695,000, and that price delivers modern updates married to old world style.
E.E. Roberts opened his architecture offices in Oak Park in 1893 and over his lifetime designed over 200 homes in the village.
The Redmond House, designed in 1900, marks a shift in his style, and emphasizes the horizontal lines, hip roof, and overhanging eaves that are hallmarks of the emerging Prairie Style. On the interior of the home, Roberts incorporated decorative and architectural styles that spoke to the past.
Coldwell Banker Realtor Monica Klinke, the listing agent for the house, points out that Roberts liked to create a grand entry hall in his designs, reminiscent of a great hall used in medieval times.
‘Epitome of phenomenal’
In the Redmond House, the entry sets the stage for the rest of the house. A large fireplace is the focal point of the room. Its ivy-motif tile mosaic and the two circular light fixtures embedded in the design invoke the Art Nouveau aesthetic.
The mantle is plated in 24-karat gold. The medieval influence is also evident in the wainscoting, which features an arch motif. Earlier owners removed the original light fixture on the newel post, which featured a woman holding a fishing basket. It has been replaced with a period-appropriate colored glass fixture.
In the formal living room, the fireplace sports original tile with a cattail motif and medallions inscribed in the woodwork over the mantle. The light fixture is original to the room, as are the book cases, wooden radiator covers and stained-glass windows.
Small details also hint at the personal lives of Redmond and Roberts. Originally, the living room and an upstairs bedroom each had a Masonic eye painted on the ceilings, but owners in the 1950s painted over them.
A crescent moon, another Masonic symbol, was depicted in the living room fireplace. Redmond was a dedicated Mason and achieved the highest position of the Knights of Templar order in the state and also wrote a complete history of the Knights of Templar. Roberts, who was Redmond’s friend, was also a Mason.
Klinke calls the dining room with its well-preserved details “the epitome of phenomenal.” A built-in buffet spans the east wall of the room. With art glass doors and arches lit by vintage light fixtures and stained glass, the handsome fixture is the focal point of the room. The original chandelier and coffered ceiling with a pattern of medallions steep the room in historic detail.
Subsequent owners removed the original E.E. Roberts-designed urns from the front porch, but the urns remained in the backyard and were replaced in their original position on the deep covered porch and adjacent patio.
The park-like back yard has been home to many outbuildings. The original design included a playhouse that was reported to have been designed by Roberts and included a terra-cotta roof to match the main house and a fireplace with a marble mantle and glass mosaic façade that replicated the living room’s fireplace.
At some point, the playhouse was razed. Later, the space housed a garage and a coach house with a machine shop. The current owners built a new, three-car garage that includes a one-bedroom apartment above.
Original details such as wood work, art glass, light fixtures and tile are lovely to live with, but very few homeowners want to retain 118-year-old bathrooms and kitchens. In the Redmond House, most subsequent owners took on some renovation projects, and the current owners added their own updates.
“They brought the home into our present century and repeated a lot of the design details that are going on in the rest of the house,” Klinke says.
The space includes repurposed original light fixtures as well as ceiling beams, mosaic tiles and decorative brackets that echo the other rooms of the home. The cabinets and appliances, including a Thermador range, double oven, and wine refrigerator are all new, and the owners added large doors to the eat-in area to provide easy access to the patio and yard.
Throughout the house, they also updated the plumbing — another area where age is not so charming. New copper plumbing connects new bathrooms, including a spacious master bathroom with garden tub and walk-in rain shower with body sprays. The second-floor hall bathroom is also new and features Calcutta marble, and the third floor and basement also have updated full bathrooms.
Additions like a second-floor laundry room and zoned central air make the house more comfortable, and a few extras make it a lot more fun for a family. In the basement, a newly finished family room sports a wood-burning fireplace, while a billiards room includes a bar and refrigerator. A second laundry room and craft room round out the lowest floor
The current owners have loved living in the architecturally significant home and being its caretakers while raising their family there. As their children leave the nest, they are ready to pass it on to the next family who will love it as much as they have.